Every time the bar-tender across me takes five shocked seconds to process my choice of Whiskey — neat, large, no Rocks, and poured into the right glass – I smirk a smile of victory. It has been my preferred choice of social drink for a very long time, and I’m loving it. It was also my initiation 15 years back into the `big boys club’ invited to share a Scotch, a rare Cuban Cigar and intense political conversation when I had come into my own. When my Mother joined me recently over a glass of Whiskey at my house-warming aftermath party, I had really counted my blessings to know that my Mom too was much ahead of her times, and still beautiful, graceful and fierce as a button to boot. She’s 70.
So, negative marks to Ms Stephanie Jacoby, Vice President, Johnnie Walker, for homework not done correctly on Indian women (and women at large). You must know, Ms Jacoby, that we are not `intimidated’ easily by Scotch or crime, we hold our own head to shoulders in a `man’s world,’ and are certainly no damsels begging to be rescued. That wagon lost its wheels with Cinderella asking for a divorce (Am I the only one who finds renegade stories like these?).
Surely, India consumes 48% of the world’s whiskey. Our own home-grown Whiskey brands stand tall in the face of fierce international competition. With 19 million new consumers entering the legal drinking age each year in the country, every brand worth its two pence is hawk-eyeing the Indian market for profits. Our women as target groups too. However, when a brand comes and dumb us down turning all `girly’ and posturing for `women’s rights,’ I’m insulted. As a woman, and as a Whiskey drinker.
I’m not alone. Voicing their displeasure are women across borders, who know their Vera Wang gown from an original to a fake, and bourbon from blends. We are not terrified of Scotch. Least of all, your Scotch. As you know by now, there is a fine line between pushing gender equality and patronizing a target audience. While it’s all fine, lofty, commendable good intentions to push `Jane’ as a symbol for more female representation across board rooms and CEO offices, or, donating a dollar on every 250,000 limited edition bottles sold to organisations that promote women, here’s what we actually want Ms Jacoby: Women want equal pay. Women want to be made inclusive in social, political, economic opportunities and conversation in the dynamics of life and quality. Women want to be appreciated, celebrated, understood for their diversity. So, please let’s send this Jane home.
Sorry… exactly what progress has been made? Pay equality? Political Equality? Reproductive control? Hmmm…But thank GOD there’s a scotch with a lady on the bottle. Now I feel equal. Thanks.
— heather mcguigan (@HeatherMcguigan) February 27, 2018
For the first time ever, I wish I actually liked Johnnie Walker whiskey, just so that I could boycott you.
This is ridiculous – your marketing dept (and management!) have COMPLETELY missed the point.
— ⚡Julie Chaston⚡ (@JulieChaston) February 28, 2018
What I would have really loved – since Diageo now has asked for it – is a powerful representation of Johnnie and Jane striding together (not separately) on your label, going forward purposefully in an gesture to re-engage and re-visit the conversation of equality, as the dire need of our societies and communities today. Men and Women are required to stitch back a fractured humane sensibility. Not divide us further. When a brand thinks beyond regular gender compartmentalisation for its products,and makes an evangelical stride to address and champion a joint solution to women empowerment, then only do you have my (and our) attention, wallet and loyalty.
Writer Jelisa Castrodale of The Munchies echoes her displeasure as well, “There are better ways that Johnnie Walker could have expressed its support for women, and even acknowledged its own efforts toward workplace equality. But instead, it dressed a woman up in Johnnie’s clothes and called it a day. That doesn’t necessarily make me want to drink Scotch but, good lord, it does make me want to drink something.” As I said, Calamity Jane this!